Music in Braille

With a single glance at a page of music, a sighted musician can absorb many pieces of musical information at once. For the musician who is blind, however, every detail from that print page must be transcribed into braille music notation. The music must then be memorized, note by note, bar by bar, before the technical and musical problems of a composition can be studied.

The CNIB Music Library provides reference services to nearly one thousand blind Canadians - including professional and amateur musicians, teachers, students and music lovers - all of whom rely on music as their primary source of employment or enjoyment. Since it is next to impossible for these musicians to acquire a large personal library of braille music materials, as few sources exist, the CNIB Music Library's collection of over 18,500 braille music scores and braille books on music provides an invaluable resource.

The CNIB Music Library: A Comprehensive Collection

The CNIB Music Library currently houses one of the largest collections of braille music in the world; it is second only to the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. The collection consists of approximately 18,500 braille music scores for all types of instruments, and braille books on music - including dictionaries, histories, biographies, theory books, and opera librettos, as well as a unique collection of instructional manuals on the braille music code. While the library's main strength is its collection of classical music scores, titles will continue to be acquired from the genres of jazz, folk, pop and rock music to strengthen these areas within the larger collection.

For those users unable to read braille music, the collection also includes a growing number of audio instructional courses which teach a variety of instruments at all playing levels.

From Print to Braille

The CNIB Music Library's transcription services have played a major role in the development of this collection. To this day, volunteers are trained to transcribe scores which would otherwise remain inaccessible to musicians who are blind. These individuals deserve great praise for the time and effort they so generously dedicate to the craft. Although the work of a braille music transcriber is a rewarding experience, there are, unfortunately, too few transcribers in Canada to meet the increasing needs of blind musicians. Braille music transcription is a skill requiring years of study. To begin with, a transcriber must have the ability to play the piano at the Grade VIII level (Royal Conservatory of Music, Toronto) and have a knowledge of music theory at the Grade II level. He or she must then complete CNIB's nine-month Literary Braille Transcription Course, followed by the nine-month Music Braille Transcription Course.

Since it is next to impossible for musicians who are blind to acquire a large personal library of braille music materials, as few sources exist, the CNIB Music Library's transcription services provide an invaluable resource to blind musicians across Canada. To this end, new recruits are always welcome.

Memorial Funds

In addition to the general budget allocation from CNIB, other financial resources have assisted the development of the Music Collection. The Rea and Ella Beacock Memorial Fund is one such resource, which specifically provides the CNIB Music Library with braille music scores. Ella Beacock was a well-respected and successful piano and theory teacher in Toronto for many years. Upon her death, the fund was established by her husband, Rea Beacock, in her memory.

Online Database of Music Materials

To further enhance accessibility to the collection, the Library began an extensive project to convert its card catalogue to a computerized database on our automated library system. Eventually, the entire Music Collection will be catalogued online, and clients will be able to access our holdings remotely by searching the CNIB Library's catalogue.

For more information, contact:

Music Librarian
Tel: (416) 480-7668
Toll-free: 1-800-268-8818
Fax: (416) 480-7700

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